Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed US President Donald Trump's recent warnings against Tehran over the country's missile tests.
Speaking to military commanders in Tehran on 7 February, the Ayatollah addressed Trump's assertions following the test-firing of a ballistic missile and the subsequent sanctions. "Iran is playing with fire!" Trump tweeted.
Khamenei called on the Iranian people to show their defiance in the upcoming commemoration of the 1979 Islamic revolution, on 10 February.
"Iranians are not afraid of threats," he said, as quoted in a statement issued on his official website and republished on the state-run PressTV media agency. "No enemy can paralyse this great nation," he added.
The Trump administration imposed on 3 February new sanctions on 26 companies and individuals from around the world that are linked to Iran's ballistic missile test. Ahead of the new sanctions, Trump wrote in a tweet that Iran had been formally "put on notice", adding: "Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the US made with them!".
Trump was referring to the nuclear disarmament deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was negotiated between Iran and the previous US administration, along with representatives from the European Union, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the UK.
Khamenei rebuffed Trump's suggestion that the Iranians should be thankful to the previous US administration for stipulating the nuclear disarmament deal. He ironically "thanked" Trump for showing the US' "real face". Referring to the travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, the Ayatollah said: "With everything he is doing – handcuffing a child as young as five at an airport – he is showing the reality of American human rights."
The relations between the US and Iran have been tense for more of the past four decades, but the deal was supposed to usher in a new period of detente. Trump's election and his vocal opposition to the deal, which he has described as "horrible" and "terrible" among other criticisms, risks compromising the limited progress made.
The new sanctions come at an inconvenient time for oil companies, as Iran will be holding the country's first tender to develop oil and gas field since the lifting of international sanctions in mid-January. Iran is home to the fourth-largest oil reserves in the world and matches that offer with some of the lowest production costs. But as attractive as Iran can be for oil companies, doing business in the country remains difficult due to the strict rules imposed by the US sanctions.
The US Treasury forbids blacklisted entities from dealing with US companies or access to the US financial system, but the ban can also be extended to foreign companies and individuals that deal with the sanctioned entities.
"Iran has not imposed any restrictions on the US companies, but they cannot participate in our (oil and gas) tenders due to the US laws," Amir Hossein Zamaninia, deputy oil minister for trade and international affairs, was quoted as saying bxy state-run news agency IRNA.
The sanction list also includes two Chinese companies and three Chinese people, prompting Beijing to "lodge a protest" with Washington. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told Reuters on 6 February that such sanctions were "not helpful" in promoting mutual trust.
Iran was also one of the countries targeted by the contested travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. As retaliation, Iran initially banned entry to the US wrestling team that was supposed to compete in the 2017 Freestyle World Cup in the Iranian city of Kermanshah. The decision was reversed on 4 February, after a US court suspended Trump's ban. Iran's Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, wrote on Twitter: "Following the court ruling suspending Muslim Ban and the requests from Iranian Wrestling Federation & FILA, US Wrestlers' visa will be granted."